I suspect that there are a few of you out there that appreciate the Ed Woods of the entertainment industry. Hopefully you have had a chance to experience Troma Entertainment and the Troll II phenomenon. The concept of watching B movies for the fun of it would not be lost on you. A few of you may have even seen Wild Wild West (1999) and thought, “Huh. Jim Thomas has really outdone himself this time. Good for him.”
If this sounds like you, or someone you know, then you need to introduce this comic into you life: Tokyo Zombie. It answers the question, “what would happen in a zombie apocalypse if the only preparation you had was a dekotora and martial arts training from your bald factory co-worker”.
You have to love a book that Johnny Ryan, author of Angry Youth Comics and Prison Pit, applauds as, “fucking awesome. Tokyo Zombie is retarded, weird, violent, bizarre… everything a comic should be and then some”1. “Heta uma”, which translates to “bad, but good”, is sub-genre in Japan which Tokyo Zombie proudly belongs to. The premise of heta uma books is akin to the “so bad, it’s good” philosophy of Mystery Science Theater 3000, the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and cult films in general… or everything that Avatar Press releases2.
To really appreciate Yusaku Hanakuma’s comic for the insanity that it is, I believe that a side-by-side comparison with another well known “dark comedy” (hah!) might help drive the point home. Granted it isn’t fair to compare a film that was meant to be taken seriously against a comic that was written with the express intention of being bizarre. Eh.
The Room & Tokyo Zombie
Immortally awkward dialogue is a staple of “so bad, it’s good” material. The Room‘s infamous, “You’re tearing me apart Lisa!”, line has made it onto t-shirts and memes with the same enthusiasm as the prequel!Vader’s hilarious, “No!”, line. True, Tokyo Zombie hasn’t reached the same level of notoriety as The Room, but no one can say that Tokyo Zombie skimps on the awkward. My favorite exchange by far has to be this one below:
Like Tommy Wiseau’s character in The Room, the protagonist in Tokyo Zombie, a factory worker named Fujio, also has a tendency to talk to uninterested dogs.
Neither of these titles would be such beautiful train wrecks if they didn’t try to force in some lovin’. So let’s talk about that next. Watching Tommy Wiseau grinding away in The Room is like watching 10 uninterrupted minutes of Frank’s Chief Lazarus sex scenes from Lethal Weapon 5 and 6. Just… no. Toyko Zombie shares the same out-of-nowhere logic that The Room has with regard to sex. Except it’s not so unbearable when the reward is a newly resurrected zombie biting the dick off of an evil gym teacher.
And speaking of awkward, how about the sports in both of these titles? The ever present football in The Room is mirrored by spontaneous bouts of wrestling in Tokyo Zombie. Many writers struggle with how to transition between topics in characters’ dialogue or how to shift into another scene. Yusaku Hanakuma and Tommy Wiseau have put the issue to rest – the solution is to insert football and martial arts.
But at their hearts, The Room and Tokyo Zombie are both stories of growth and maturity. Right before our eyes we see a pasty, awkward, weirdly fit 40ish banker realize that the just because he can throw a football, it doesn’t make him man enough for his girlfriend. Meanwhile, after Mt. Fuji erupts with zombies and Tokyo devolves into Barter Town, all of Fujio’s training with his co-worker/sensei Mitsuo has come into his own as a fierce zombie fighter in the arena.
Tokyo Zombie is a very entertaining horror comedy perfect for those nights when you’re too drunk to get off the couch and grab the DVD for Shaun of the Dead. Look! It’s right there on your coffee table between the water stains from your Four Loko and your ash tray. Just reach out and grab it!
Title: Tokyo Zombie
Artist & Writer: Yusaku Hanakuma
USA Original Publisher: Last Gasp 2008
1Hanakuma, Yusaku. Tokyo Zombie. San Francisco: Last Gasp, 2008, fourth cover.
2Just kidding. Please don’t stop publishing Skin Trade. Or God is Dead. Or anything else Alan Moore and Warren Ellis think up that Vertigo or Image won’t publish. You know what, just do what you do Avatar Press. You got this.